Here’s The Ultimate Cinematic Guide To Spending Halloween Indoors
Going out for Halloween can be fun…until you remember that we live up north and that it’s almost always freezing cold outside by the time October 31 comes around. We here at Space are making the practical decision to preserve as much body heat as possible by spending Halloween in the comfort of our own homes, watching movies. And (in the least cult-y way possible) we’re hoping you’ll join us.
The only problem: there are hundreds, even thousands of Halloween movies out there to choose from, from the unnervingly gory to the delightfully campy. But it just so turns happens that we’re gore and camp experts, so we put together a list of our favourite All Hallows’ Eve flicks to make sure you stay warm, cozy, and entertained this year.
I’m the kind of genre film fan who likes to be scared but hates to see people or animals tortured, and I’m not into realistic gore (the kind of cartoon violence found in movies like Mandy or The Purge franchise is more my thing). Stalker is slightly more sci-fi than horror, but it will (and should) scare you. It’s haunting imagery and bleak outlook for the future stay with you long after the film is over.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film is as stunning as it is suspenseful, instilling the kind of fear and dread that comes from not knowing what lies ahead. The Russian filmmaker was an expert at subtly ratcheting up your sense of unease until it feels unbearable. It’s an arty, scary thriller (where the thrills are coming from INSIDE YOUR OWN HEAD) and a definite precursor to films like Annihilation and The Witch, which treat nature as a hiding place for terrifying forces. You won’t be venturing into the woods this Halloween. —Corrina
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
I’m not a huge horror fan, but I can still appreciate The Cabin in the Wood’s willingness to subvert decades-old genre tropes like the best of ’em. Starring Bradley Whitford, Signourney Weaver, and a post-Thor Chris Hemsworth, The Cabin in the Woods starts the same way dozens of other frightening flicks do—with a group of unassuming teens taking a potentially dangerous weekend trip to an isolated cabin (in the woods).
Fast forward about half an hour—dark, disturbing, mysterious stuff starts to happen. As time goes on, however, it becomes increasingly clear that good old fashioned ghosts and ghouls have no place in this movie and that, despite what The Breakfast Club may have taught Hemsworth et al., archetypes are very, very dangerous. —Sara
When it comes to truly visceral horror, story logic and clarity don’t get you very far. Early in his career, Italian horror master Dario Argento understood this like few of his peers. Rather than focus on creating credible characters and scenarios, he poured all his filmmaking energy into capturing the irrational feeling of a nightmare. In the case of 1977’s Suspiria, this is in the service of a story about an American ballet student plagued by an assortment of horrors at a Munich dance academy. But Argento prioritizes that narrative a distant second after his real preoccupation: bombarding viewers with unsettling sights and sounds.
If you grew up in the VHS era, there’s a good chance Suspiria left you scratching your head, as pan-and-scan videotapes viewed on tiny TVs are incapable of conveying the urgent power of this film’s artful horror. However, if you get a chance to view a 35mm print or the 4K restoration recently released on Blu-ray, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the terrifying impact of Argento’s achievement. A big part of that impact should be credited to frequent Argento collaborators Goblin, who deliver a horror score so unsettling it could give you nightmares, even without the help of Argento’s surreal, colour saturated imagery. For an ideal introduction, get a ticket to see Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti play this iconic score live with the film late next month in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. —Jon
The Shining and The Chickening (1980/2015)
Whenever the subject of Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying and tense horror masterpiece comes up, like a reflex, I have to mention The Chickening. There is no better pair of companion films than Kubrick’s movie and directors Nick DenBoer and Davy Force’s insane, “redirected” homage—especially on Halloween (and especially if you’re a little unnerved by Jack “All Work and No Play” Torrance). The Shining is at once beautiful and scary, with over-the-top performances from nearly every actor in the film that somehow work inside the unnerving atmosphere Kubrick creates.
It’s one of those movies where you find something new (and creepy) every time you rewatch it—which means there’s plenty to be freaked out by. Even after the movie ends you’re left with strange and haunting images (guy in a bear suit, lady in the bathtub, blood in an elevator) that there’s only one cure for: a good, solid laugh. That’s where The Chickening comes in. The 2016 TIFF selection takes all the terror of The Shining and turns it into comedy (so you can sleep). —Corrina
Though I was tempted to choose a more popular Halloween-appropriate Tim Curry movie, I couldn’t not add Clue to this list. Based on the popular Hasbro board game of the same name, Clue follows a group of bumbling dinner party guests as they attempt to evade and identify the killer among them. It also features a cast of actors whose stars deserve to have shone way brighter than they did, including Back to the Future‘s Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum, Peep World‘s Lesley Ann Warren as Ms. Scarlet, and the incomparable Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White.
Clue isn’t exactly scary, per se, but its body count is rather impressive considering that none of the film’s colourful dinner guests (I’m looking at you, Mrs. Peacock) seem daring nor cunning enough to get away with murder. Come to think of it, the most frightening thing about the movie might be Wadsworth’s bloodthirsty guard dogs, who get introduced at the beginning of the film and then get almost zero screen time. But don’t let the film’s low spook levels keep you from adding it your Halloween movie roster. Clue is endlessly enjoyable, endlessly quotable, and holds up no matter how many times you’ve run through all three of its unique endings. —Sara
Terror in the Aisles (1984)
Selecting a horror movie to watch on Halloween is always challenging, but if you find yourself torn between Carrie, The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, The Omen, Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and countless others, there is one way to have it all: Terror in the Aisles. Released theatrically during the golden age of modern American horror, this epic clip compilation (hosted by Donald Pleasence and Nancy Allen) offers a thrilling glimpse of the genre in its prime. While the actual thesis of the film is somewhere between thin and non-existent, there’s a unique thrill in seeing all these iconic shocks strung together back-to-back, stripped of their original meaning and context. Where else in movie history can you jump from Leatherface to Michael Myers to Norman Bates in a matter of cuts?
Long unavailable (though it was included as an extra on the 2011 Halloween II Blu-ray and finally got a DVD of its own in 2014), Terror in the Aisles also has the distinction of being the first horror film this movie buff ever watched, offering a premature push toward all things Carpenter, Cronenberg, De Palma, Hitchcock, Romero, etc. Whether you’re a genre newcomer or a grizzled old vet who’s simply strapped for time, this is a valuable reminder of (almost) everything the genre has to offer. —Jon